Fairytale Challenge 2018 Recap

Did you know its been 3 years since my last Princess Half Marathon weekend?!  I cant believe I have been gone from this race weekend for that long!  It was my very first half marathon way back in 2011 so it holds a very special place in my heart.  With this year being the 10th anniversary, I had to find my way back to the race that started my love of half’s.

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This year I had the pleasure of being a part of an annual girl’s trip.  Usually when I do race weekends I always bring my amazingly supportive husband Joe, but this year he was more than happy to stay home while I went out with the girls.  Being the super-powered vacation specialist I am, we scored an amazing deal on a room at the Caribbean Beach Resort as well as race registrations for everyone!  We even got $300 in gift cards for booking the resort when we did, so all if all we came out on top!  #vacationspecialistforthewin

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Amy and I decided to do all 3 races for the weekend (5k, 10k, and half marathon) and Ali decided to do the 5k and the 10k.  I think Ali had the right idea skipping the half, it was SO HOT!  We’ll circle back to though though.  Since we were all planning to do the 5k together (its not timed and 100% a fun race) we decided to do a group outfit.  I love group outfits, they are always so much fun and make for some great memories.  Coming up with a group of 3 was a little more challenging but being it was princess weekend we ended up choosing the 3 fairies from Sleeping Beauty.  We even coordinated our magicband to their colors for #squadgoals because if your going to do something, go all in!

ON TO THE EXPO

We arrived on Thursday, opening day of the expo and got to ESPN Wide World of Sports at around 1pm.  While there weren’t lines to get into the centers, the line for pre-ordered merchandise was about a 30 minute wait.  The line to purchase standard merchandise…over 90 minutes.  NO WAY thats just crazy talk.  I was disappointed to not spend time walking around the runDisney merch booth, but I also knew there was no way I was going to stand in that checkout line.  That ended up saving me money so #lifeplan stayed on track.  The merch area was in a brand new arena totally seperate from the bib pick-up and expo show floor.  I enjoyed this because it gave runDisney plenty of space to spread the merch out and, lets be honest, runner princesses can get a little intense.  The extra space was appreciated.

After I got my pre-ordered items we made our way to bib pick up.  This went smoothly with minimal lines.  What I still dont like is the shirt pick-up is in the expo show floor.  There was so much space in the bib pick-up area it would have been so nice to just get the shirts in the same place.  Maybe next year 😛  Once we got our bib’s we made our way over the the expo show floor and got our shirts.  Again, this went smoothly with minimal lines.  This is also where you get your gear check bags, so in went the bibs and shirts.  Now that we were hands free it was time to explore the expo!  Lots of vendors selling princess items but we all had pretty much everything we needed so it was just a matter of seeing what vendors were there and then heading out.  I didnt buy anything at the expo because as a surprise gift for the 10th anniversary of the half marathon, all runner were given a really nice luggage tag that was a replica of the medal and bib snaps!  I was planning on purchasing bib snaps at the expo so I was really excited that we were given these as a free gift.  Thank you Disney for saving me money for once!

Post expo, we went back to the hotel, got settled in our room then made our way to Disney Springs for dinner and then an early bedtime.  I’ll leave park and dining for a different post since there is so much to share, but know that good things are coming!

5K DAY

It’s off to the races!  Since all 3 of us have done many runDisney events before, we decided that we would get up at 3:30am to be on an event bus at 4am.  I’m proud to say that we achieved our goal!  That’s no small feat for a group of 3 women let me tell you!  We all looked fabulous in our fairy costumes thanks to a few craft day sessions between the 3 of us!  My favorite part is the wands, but I do love an awesome wand.  Anyway, we made it to the start line and miracle of miracles we are all in corral A!  I’ve never been in A corral before and that just makes me all kinds of smile.  We did the pre-race potty and picture then it was on to the corral.  Ali was going to be the pace leader today so Amy and I were just along for the ride.  Once the race started (100% on time at 5:30am) there were a lot of mini-waves for each corral.  I think we started maybe 2 minutes after the first group.  The mini-corrals were weird for such a small race but once we got into the parks I totally see why.

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Ali was doing 1 minute of walking and 1 minute of running which was fine for all of us.  We did this for a while until we hit our first character stop, Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc.  These guys are a favorite of Amy so she ran ahead to get a place in the super long line.  For whatever reason, this was the only character stop on all 3 days that moved the slowest.  We waited in longer lines on half marathon day that moved faster.  I guess people just really wanted to love on Sully, he is just so fluffy!  After Mike and Sully we were in the parks and the congestion began.  It became increasingly difficult to run as a group because of the sheer amount of people and walkers.  We did our best though and got some great group running pictures!  The only other stops we made were for Abu from Aladdin in Morocco and Sebastian from The Little Mermaid at The Seas.  Both of those lines were relatively short and moved quickly.  We didn’t stop for the Beast, his line was MASSIVE but now I’m a little sad we didn’t.  We all thought he would be out for the half, but he was not 😦  Overall there were a good amount of characters but none of them were princesses.  I didn’t really pay this any mind since I assumed they would be out for the 10k and the half.  We’ll circle back to this later.

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We all finished together, and who cares what the time was none of us were really keeping track.  We got our beautiful medals, snack boxes and post races photos and it was off to the buses.  We were going to try to get to Animal Kingdom before park opening to ride flight of passage since fastpasses were all booked, spoiler alert, that didn’t happen.  After spending the day at Animal Kingdom we made it back to the hotel by 8pm and were all fast asleep before 10pm.  We RAGE on race weekend!

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Overall I enjoyed the 5k.  The course is almost 100% in Epcot and there were a good amount of character stops.  I would have liked to have seen 1 more water stop since it was pretty warm but overall it was a nice race.  I probably wont do it again since its not part of a challenge and the congestion of the race was a little annoying.

10K DAY

Another 3:30am wake-up call and another successful out the door before 4am.  This day however there was a line for the buses and I don’t think we actually caught a bus until 4:15am.  It’s ok though, we made it to the race start, again pre race potty but this time Ali was running her own race and Amy and I would run together as Megara and Hercules!  I found out that my friend Brittany was also in our same corral and she runs about my pace so we met up with her and all ran together.  The race again started right on time at 5:30am, but this time we were in corral B so it was about 10 minutes before we started the race.  Today I was pace keeper and we were going to do 9 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking.  We were keeping a nice pace and passed a few character stops, none of which had a short enough line to entice us to stop.  Once we made our way into Epcot Amy stopped for Genie but the heat was getting to me and I just wanted to finish so Brittany and I went on while Amy met quite a few more characters.  Overall, the 10k had the best characters of all the events.  I’m not sad I didnt stop for any as none of them were really “rare” characters like I would normally stop for.  Today Mulan and Pocohontas were out, which was nice to see some “princesses” represented.

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Brittany and I finished together, got our medals, cool towels post race snack boxes then on to take post race photos.  Being the super speed racer that Amy is, she finished just a few minutes after us and we were able to all take a “finisher” photo together.  Ali wasn’t too far behind after Amy, maybe 5-10 minutes.  She met up with us to take post race pictures.  Post race, Walt Disney World runDisney races always have characters (they don’t at Disneyland).  We opted not to meet them yesterday since we were trying to get on flight of passage.  Today though, we were in no such rush and decided to meet Princess Minnie and Rapunzel.  There were a few other princesses out but by the time we were done with Minnie we were all ready to shower and head to Magic Kingdom!  After a full, wonderful day in Magic Kingdom we were all in bed before 9pm!  RAGE I TELL YOU!!!

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The 10k at Walt Disney World is my absolute favorite course.  By the time you get into Epcot (at about the 5k mark) the crowds have thinned a bit making it easier to navigate.  You get to run around most of world showcase and the boardwalk.  Being that its part of the weekend’s challenge I don’t hesitate to sign up for the 10k.  If half’s aren’t your thing, consider the 10k at Walt Disney World, they all use the same course and its always my favorite part of the race weekend.  While it was nasty hot and humid, I still love the 10k.

HALF MARATHON DAY

Another 3:30am wake-up call and at the bus stop by 4am.  This time there was no line and minimal waiting to get on the bus.  I have to say, getting up at 3:30am 3 days in a row sucks, but being smart and going to bed early definitely made it easier.  Today Amy and I were Clubhouse Minnie and Daisy respectively.  We got to the holding area at a decent time, made our potty stops then started the LONG walk to the start line.  This year the start line was in a different spot then in years past and we did quite a bit of walking in a ditch.  Not great, but at least it wasnt wet.  I think its about a mile walk from the holding area to the start line so be prepared for that, it will take you a little bit of time.  Once we made it to our corral (D) we walked our way to the front so we could get released at the beginning of our corral.  Brittany was also in our corral today but she was planning on running with the pacer group so we planned to meet up with her post race.  Amy and I found a spot to sit and waited about 45 minutes before the race officially started.  Once the race started it was about 15 minutes before we started the race.

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Again another hot and humid morning but we felt ok after the initial 2 mile shake-out.  We passes the pirate character stop with our eyes peeled to find the standard Prince stop.  Unfortunately it wasnt in the spot it usually is due to contruction at Magic Kingdom’s entrance, meaning you would only see the Prince’s once rather than twice like in years past.  Meaning the line was SUPER long.  We waited for a few minutes then decided the wait wasnt work it, ran up to the princes to take a selfie and make our way to Magic Kingdom.  By this time Amy needed to make a potty spot, and being that she is faster than me we agreed I would go on at a slightly slower pace and she would catch up.  About 5 minutes later she caught up with me as I was passing the Old Hag character meet.  I did take a selfie but again her line was so long I kept running along.

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Now, its game time, we are less than a mile from Magic Kingdom, the whole reason I run this race.  We enter through the main gate of Magic Kingdom and its breath-taking as usual.  Amy and I stop for a quick castle selfie on Main Street and its on to Tomorrowland.  Buzz Lightyear had a short line so we met him, then past The Red Queen, past Gaston (his line had to be at least a 20 minute wait) but did stop to meet The Evil Step-Mother, Anastasia, and Drizella.  They were hilarious and right before you run through the castle.  We stopped for the castle, ran past a character I cant remember, Woody, and the train then we came to Cinderella and Aurora with their princes.  We did get in this line but decided that since we had both met them in a previous race, we werent going to wait in that 20 minute or more line.  Instead we opted to take a photo with the steam-punk Maleficent dragon.  And that friends, is where the character stops end!

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I was actually really disappointed with the characters on-course.  You will see a lack of the Beast (which we had counted on) and any princesses except for the two.  There were 2 more characters outside of Magic Kingdom, Genie (again) and Mrs. Incredible before entering Epcot.  For the 10th anniversary of the half, this was SUCH a dissapointment.  There were no rare characters, a very shocking lack of princesses, and even the princes they had out you could meet at various dining locations.  runDisney, do better with your characters.  You have so many to choose from, you dont need to have the same characters for every race.

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On the positive side, since it was hot runDisney added a few extra water stations and this was so appreciated!  At the second water stop Amy and I started pouring water on our heads to keep cool.  I think this is what saved me during this race because I do suffer from heat exhaustion very easily.  Thank you runDisney, we made use of every single aid station, they were all appreciated!  With that being said, our pace (other than MK because of the character stops) was a pretty solid 11:30 which was our goal.  I felt like we were going so much slower but nope, solid pace!  There was a moment at mile 10 where I was really struggling and was really tempted to tell Amy to just leave me (so dramatic us runners) but luckily she convinced me to keep going we were almost there and we finished together!

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Post race we got our beautiful medal, cool towel then got our special challenge medal and snack box.  We actually grabbed 2 snack boxes each, because, man they have so many of them why not?!  After we took our finisher photos we met up with Ali and met Snow White since she was featured on the medal.  After Snow Amy and Ali wanted to meet Elsa/Anna.  We all know how I feel about Frozen so instead I went to the merch tent to get the replica medal pins that I wanted to get our Thursday.  Lucky for me they had plenty and I was able to get the pins after all!  Amy and Ali headed back to the hotel to get breakfast and shower while I went to find Brittany and take photos with her.  On the way I found an old friend Mike who runs Disney races all the time but I never manage to see him.  It was so nice running in to him!  I then found Brittany, took a photos with Elsa (dont get me started) then we parted ways and I headed back to the hotel to shower, meet up with Amy and Ali then head to Epcot for a day filled with princesses!!

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Overall, look I really hate this half course other than going through Magic Kingdom.  There is far too much road and not enough park.  It was hot and humid with no cloud coverage.  The characters that were out were a let down and there were SO MANY PEOPLE!  25,000 to be exact, the most at a Princess weekend ever.  I love this race for the women empowerment and girls weekend but come on Disney, bring out some strong female characters like Megara, Jane, Princess Daisy, or Moana instead of random characters like Buzz Lightyear and Genie(who have no business being in Princess weekend).

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I loved that I got to spend this race weekend with some awesome women.  I wont say I will never do this race again, because let’s be honest we all know that’s not true.  My favorite runDisney race weekend is still Wine and Dine but princess can be so much fun with the girls!  I will say this year seemed to be so much more crowded than in years past but it was an anniversary year so maybe that had something to do with it.  If you are on the fence about Princess 2019, just do it.  You will have fun, you will meet some awesome people and it will be a memory you cherish for a lifetime.  I have never regretted a race weekend, ever.

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CHIME IN!!!  Have you ran Princess Half Marathon weekend before?  What is your favorite race distance?  What character would you most like to meet?

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